An app for Apple iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch called Anxiety Coach will be released this week by Mayo Clinic. It is a self-help tool that assists people in reducing a variety of fears and worries ranging from extreme shyness to obsessions and compulsions.
Unlike other self-help apps, Mayo Clinic Anxiety Coach helps people conquer their fears by guiding them through a series of confidence-building exercises while simultaneously tracking anxiety levels in real time and gauging their progress.
The app is designed for people with any level of anxiety. It can help someone overcome a common fear such as public speaking, or guide someone who has more severe symptoms in tracking and fighting anxiety between sessions with their health care provider.
The strategies used in Anxiety Coach are based on cognitive behavioral therapy, the most effective psychotherapy for fears and worries.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, people increase their confidence by gradually confronting situations that they have avoided out of fear. Research has demonstrated that cognitive behavioral therapy is more effective for anxiety than other approaches that rely on teaching people to relax.
Anxiety Coach was developed by two clinical psychologists who are recognized as experts in the treatment of anxiety disorders - Stephen Whiteside, Ph.D., director of the Pediatric Anxiety Disorders Program at Mayo Clinic, and Jonathan Abramowitz, Ph.D., an adult anxiety disorders specialist at the University of North Carolina.
"The app is based on a long history of clinical research of what is helpful in conquering anxiety. It really challenges people to face their fears, as opposed to other apps that focus on relaxation strategy but don't get to the core of what is helpful in the long term," Dr. Whiteside said.